Top 12 tips for dealing with kids coughs and colds this winter

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Oh how I LOVE the winter months… yes it is fun to get all wrapped up and play in the snow if you are lucky enough to get any. Yes its fun to splash in puddles a la Peppa Pig BUT if you are anything like me, it is NO FUN dealing with the endless coughs and colds that come into the house on the tails of your kids. It seems that once the Autumn term begins at school, the kids share way more than just their snacks and they bring home every bug known to man…. If you have more than one child, it would seem that the game of tag played merrily by said germs involved means that between November and March, you may well not have many sneeze and snot free weeks.

My girls are quite professional cold sufferers and only a real humdinger knocks them down now. Having suffered from a nasty chest infection as a toddler, my eldest Bea is almost always guaranteed to get a cough with any cold that comes her way (cue sleepless nights). Little Freya is a September baby so pretty much had a sniffle from the day we brought her home thanks to a loving (coughing) sister! SO over the past few years, I have trawled the internet, I have spoken with many a doctor and thought I would share what is my top 12 tips for dealing with (not preventing – I think that is impossible) the Coughs and Colds that come your kids way this winter.

Please don’t forget, I am just a mum! I have no medical qualification to justify any of these suggestions, I simply have found through trial and error that these are the things that work best for my and my kids, I hope they help yours too! 

  • Steam – Number one helpful thing to do with our kids in this house if they have serious snuffles is to get steamy! No I don’t mean with your partners (chance would be a fine thing!) I mean, shut the bathroom door – turn the shower as hot as it will go and steam the room up. If its bath time, great just pop the plug im and top it up with cold water when you are ready, if not – sorry water conservationists, but this works wonders and thats more valuable! Hang out and have a dance / read a book / take that bath you just ran for a good 10 minutes and you should notice a good difference and result in a lot of nose blowing! This works for tiny babes or great big school kids – it eases congestion and certainly helps them to breathe more easily. Older kids and teens might be able to pop their heads over a bowl of hot water but I would worry with younger tots doing this.
  • Saline solution – If your babies are really congested and struggling to feed from breast or bottle then dropping a couple of drops of a saline solution like these in their little noses can really make a difference. For older kids, you can buy some saline sprays like these that can be a bit sneeze inducing and not so comfortable but desperate times can call for desperate measures! 
  • Olbas Oil – I Love this stuff. Its a glorious mix of Clove oil, Eucalyptus, juniper berry and Cajuput. I use it for myself and my kids (they do a kids oil as well as a grown up ones). It smells wonderful and works wonders clearing the snuffles. For more restful nights, I pop a few drops directly on the corner of the girls pillows, on a muslin tied to the cot bars or a drop on the radiator for more of a room filling effect. 
  • Elevation – Why is it the moment you lie down when you have a head cold, you feel so bad? One way to slightly lessen this feeling is by elevation. Raise the pillow or the head end of the bed (I have a couple of perfect sized yoga blocks or the complete works of Whinnie the Pooh works too!) You don’t want it to be uncomfortable to sleep like this but a few inches can help.
  • Honey – (for over one year olds only) Whether its posh Manuka honey to help with sore throats or a teaspoon of regular runny honey for a bit of cough relief, I have found it can help. All over the internet at the moment is a recipe for honey and cinnamon which we are trying this week for a change of taste! Its delicious… we are yet to know if the claims of its miraculous healing power are true… watch this space! 
  • Vicks vabor rub – Another Eucalyptus based product but this time its in a balm to rub onto chests for inhalation and a comforting warming feeling and yes… you may have heard of this before on the feet! I kid you not, if your child has a nasty bedtime cough, give it a try, it can work! Rub the vicks onto the soles of the feet and cover with socks. Its guaranteed a giggle too!
  • Vinegar socks – If your child is suffering from high temperatures when they are unwell, this honestly does seem to help! Soak some cotton ankle socks in white vinegar, squeeze them out and pop them on your child. Some people also put an extra dry pair on top so their bed doesn’t get too vinegar smelling. The vinegar seems to draw the fever out. Strange but true! 
  • Keep hydrated – If your little one does have a fever or is congested and therefore breathing through their mouth a lot, it is really important they keep their fluid intake up. My girls are quite good at drinking water but i do find that when they are ill and their little mouths probably taste a bit yucky, they are never too keen to drink much. To help this along and to bring a smile to their faces, I make ice pops- they think they are getting a treat, while I know that they are getting some much needed fluid. I use diluted fruit juices or cordials and if they have a tummy upset, I mix in some rehydration powders that are safe for kids too. I also freeze whole peeled bananas and whole grapes both of which are easy to then cut up – easy to eat healthy frozen tasty treats that are kind to sore throats. Warm drinks are also nice, whether its a nice warm Camomile with a bit of honey in it or a warm lemon and honey, if Bea is having a hard time stopping coughing a warm drink can often help to calm it down.
  • Cuddles – No doubt about it, when the girls are ill there is one thing and one thing only that they want the most – me! Its really hard when there are the usual things that need doing to keep a house going and to keep the other sibling happy but its important to remember how rubbish you can feel as a grown up when you have a head cold so stop what you are doing and make sure you allocate some good time for cuddles on the sofa.
  • TV time – My girls are real telly addicts if I let them watch it endlessly, they will stay put! Obviously its not great to have them spend hours on end in front of the box but to be honest, if your little one isn’t feeling well, you are best to try not to do too much with them. Its amazing how quickly their little energy levels can dip when they are ill which only results in miserableness. Whether its a quick half hour every now and then or a true movie marathon; my advice is to let them enjoy a proper relax.
  • Comfort food – Bea especially really reduces the amounts she wants to eat when she is unwell which is always a hard fact for me to remember not to nag her too much! SO I often resort to becoming chief chef and making the stuff I know they absolutely love – its not a time to try new things out. A big tip with mealtime is to try to avoid using too much dairy though as it is known to encourage phlegm production.
  • Medication! When all is said and done sometimes your little ones need medication to help them! Whether thats good old fashioned Calpol or prescribed antibiotics, its been invented for a reason so don’t forget to visit the doctors if your little ones really aren’t improving or have a sustained high temperature.

Keep warm, keep well
Love Mum on the Rock x

Post Author: Sarah Thorogood

3 thoughts on “Top 12 tips for dealing with kids coughs and colds this winter

    Amy E. McCollum

    (January 29, 2013 - 2:48 pm)

    I’ve got 2 lil sickies snuggled in their beds now. (4-1/2 year and 7 month old) Thanks for the tips!!

    Sarah Thorogood

    (February 2, 2013 - 9:31 pm)

    Oh no… tired mummy no doubt! I hope something helped them…. get well soon!


    (May 19, 2015 - 9:29 pm)

    I agree that honey is great for cold and cough. Recent studies have shown that honey is even better for cough relief than over-the-counter cough medicines. Honey is not recommended for kids under 1 though. And of course lots of cuddles!

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